Posted weekly on Tuesdays, Reading Roots features a variety of book bloggers talking about their early reading influences and experiences, letting us catch a glimpse of the “roots” that each person has built upon in forming their identity as “a reader”.
Today, I’m interviewing Josh from Brews and Books. Let’s explore his reading roots!
What is your earliest memory involving books or reading? How were books, reading, and literacy approached in your childhood home? Were your parents or other family members “readers”?
I distinctly remember reading as a really young kid, although the book titles escape me. I know that we had a vast collection of classic kids books and the *Little Golden Books*, so it could have been any number of titles … the first one I can remember specifically is *Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business *by Esphyr Slobodkina. Books and reading were approached with vigor by my family. My mom and dad were (and are) both big readers, and I grew up in a house practically wallpapered with books. When I visit home, I’m still amazed by the sheer number of bookshelves in my parents’ house. My parents both constantly had books going, and actively encouraged my brother and I to read.
Did you enjoy language arts/English classes as a kid, or were you more of a reluctant reader? When did you first consider yourself “a reader”?
I was pretty ambivalent towards my language arts classes as a student. I was one of those rare kids that enjoyed school, so I never disliked going to English. I did, however, hate classics. Though I’m loath to admit it, I worked my way though a number of books using cliffnotes (sorry, Mrs Ennamorati!). Though I was always a *reader* – by third grade, I had a well-word library card – I never could get into Dickens or Shakespeare as a student. I read hundreds of pages a week in spite of my class work, rather than because of it.
Did you have any interesting reading habits when you were growing up? Do you still have them now?
Nothing that I can think of. I was never a highlighter, underliner or note-taker. It’s a habit too common to be “strange”, but I do remember taking a flashlight under the covers and reading ’til early morning when I
really enjoyed a book. I have the luxury of a bedside lamp now, but staying up until 2 AM reading is still a habit I definitely have.
Where was your favourite spot to read as a kid? Are there any books you distinctly remember from your childhood? Why?
My favorite spot to read as a kid was the bathtub, and some clumsiness on my part means that my hometown’s library has more than a few paperbacks warped by water.
I remember Elizabeth George Speare’s *Sign of the Beaver* as the first school book I read and immediately re-read. *Caps for Sale* by Slobodkina I remember as the first book I read on my own. Though I don’t remember specifics, books by WIlliam Sleator, RL Stein, and Bruce Coville are all remembered as books that necessitated Dramamine – books I couldn’t stop reading in the car after school and on weekends. Timothy Zahn’s *Thrawn *trilogy as the books that, in 6th grade, *really *got me into reading voraciously on my own, and as the books that prevented me from being scared of “grown-up” fiction. In high school, I remember *Hamlet *and *Death of a Salesman*chipping away at that distaste I had for classics and turning me on to playwrights.
How have your reading tastes developed from childhood until now? What were the phases that you went through along the way?
When I was younger, almost everything I read for pleasure was genre fiction. *Star Wars* books held the most appeal, but I worked through *Dragonlance*, *Forgotten Realms*, and other sci-fi and fantasy series as well. This held through middle school and high school. By the time I hit college, I shifted almost unilaterally to non-fiction. Blame it on my Political Science major, but I spent years reading *nothing* but current affairs, history and biographies. Near the end of college I also discovered comics, and started reading a lot of graphic novels. Now, as a book blogger and bookseller, I’ve finally fallen in love with literary fiction. Luckily, I just find more time to read these days, so I’m still reading a lot of nonfiction and getting back into genre stuff.
Bonus Literacy Question: If you have children, how did you encourage them (or how are you encouraging them) to become readers? If you do not have children of your own, what do you think is the most important thing to focus on in order to promote reading in the coming generations?
Read. Read to your children. Surround yourself and your kids with books. Read in public. Talk about books. Give books to your friends, and take book recommendations. Read.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Josh as much as I did! If you haven’t read his blog before, I suggest that you go take a look.
See you next week for a look into the “roots” of another fantastic blogger!